Trump Is Right (and Ultimately Wrong) on Reporter Incident

I sure do dislike agreeing with Donald Trump. But the billionaire bully boy is right about one thing: The manager of his neo-fascist presidential campaign, Corey Lewandowski, did not physically attack a female reporter, as all too typically hyped media reports suggested he had.

On the other hand, in my opinion Trump's campaign manager very clearly did physically attack a young male protester at another raucous Trump rally, as you can see for yourself below. Yet he hasn't been charged for that. More on that in a moment.

Let's focus first on the big controversy, the allegation that Lewandowski physically attacked now former Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields during a moving media scrum around Trump at a rally in Jupiter, Florida. The local prosecutor who charged Lewandowski with battery for the incident turns out to be an active Democrat and Hillary Clinton backer.

The first time I watched the video, which shows a typically semi-chaotic moving media and security bubble around a celebrity or a politician of the kind I've been in countless times, I didn't see anything of particular interest. The video was choppy. I thought that was why I had somehow missed what had been so dramatically described by Fields and thousands of media reports.

"I was jolted backwards," declared Fields. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/03/11/michelle_fields_files_assault_complaint_against_corey_lewandowski.html "Someone had grabbed me tightly by the arm and yanked me down. I almost fell to the ground, but was able to maintain my balance. Nonetheless, I was shaken."

Er, no.

The next couple of viewings made things much clearer.

Fields appears to ask a rather bored-looking Trump something -- reportedly if he is still against affirmative action -- as he walks toward wherever he is going next. So far, so dull (and not at all in keeping with Trump's own melodramatic recollection of being harassed by Fields, who seems to be behaving quite normally as a reporter). Lewandowski approaches Fields from behind and to her left. He briefly (as in for less than a second) takes her left arm, perhaps saying something very brief, as he hurries by to catch up with his boss.

Blink and you'll miss it. Here Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski briefly takes reporter Michelle Fields by the arm, jostling her and apparently saying something very brief as he walks by during a moving Trump media scrum in Jupiter, Florida. This is the supposed physical attack so dramatically described in countless media reports.

Fields, who is clearly not staggered, much less nearly knocked or yanked down, turns very slightly for just a moment as she continues walking forward, looking quite unshaken, for several paces until she is out out of frame. End of action scene. Cut.

In other words, blink and you miss it.

It looks to me like minor contact, just another bumper cars moment in the sort of moving scrum I've been in so many times over the decades. Had Lewandowski done to me what I see in the surveillance video, I doubt I'd even have noticed it in that environment, though I may or may not have been irritated by what he might have said.

Of course, I have no history with the guy. Fields may well have perceived that she was attacked by a hostile male. And my threshold for perceiving physical threat is rather high.

In any event, from this seemingly unremarkable and quite brief occurrence, things spun up into a media frenzy. Fields's description was so dramatic, and the media repetition so intense, that my expectations were raised, only to be dashed by the video you see here.

No one did very well here, making this a key exhibit in how the hostile political environment created by Trump and the hyped-up environment of the present media culture combine so toxically.

Florida state law:

The offense of battery occurs when a person:
1. Actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; or
2. Intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.

Lewandowski, ludicrously, claimed he didn't touch her, didn't know her, and so on.

Trump, for his part, reacted with all too characteristic bluster, giving up yet another opportunity to show actual leadership by defusing the situation and getting his campaign manager and other staff to cool it.

For the other incident, the one involving what looks very much to me like a physical attack on a young male protester by Lewandowski, is much more clearcut and shows why Fields might have felt threatened by any physical contact with the Trump campaign manager.

As you see in the video, Lewandowski and a Trump security guy confront a white kid, jabbing their fingers at him, but not touching him. The boy starts to leave and Lewandowski then grabs a lanyard around his neck, yanking him backward and nearly off his feet. In other words, actually doing to the protester what Fields claimed he had done to her.

Now this Lewandowski behavior, at an earlier Tucson, Arizona rally, looks more clearly like a physical attack as he aggressively grabs and drags back a young male protester that he and a Trump security agent had been confronting.

I perceive that to be a clear physical attack, and a sneak attack from behind at that. Were I in the boy's situation, Lewandowski would have found himself on the ground with at least a very sore wrist. When someone yanks a cord across one's throat in garrote-fashion, that is something to be taken seriously.

By the way, what the hell is the campaign manager for a front-running presidential candidate doing confronting a protester anyway? Why is he physically guiding, the benign reasonable doubt explanation for the Fields incident, a female reporter? This behavior is all way too hot, and it clearly starts at the top with Trump himself.

Trump could and should have defused the situation early on by ordering Lewandowski to apologize to Fields for jostling her. While Fields might want to acknowledge that the video decidedly does not support her dramatic narrative, she can also legitimately and undeniably note that she felt threatened by the incident given Lewandowski's obvious hotheadedness -- his manhandling of the protester in Arizona took place before the Fields incident -- and the very hostile anti-press environment at those rallies cultivated by Trump.

Trump shouldn't fire Lewandowski for the Fields incident. He should admonish him and tell him to cool it, and especially to keep his hands off people who might take offense. Having been on the other side of the equation as a political operative, it seems to me that there is virtually no situation in which a reporter can't be managed with conversation.

As you can see in the relevant Florida statute above, even the simplest touching can constitute battery if unwanted. Which would probably surprise many lay people who would expect a more egregious sort of violation. However, I don't expect any jury to convict Lewandowski given the state of mind issue and how the incident looks on the video.

Trump, however, should give serious consideration to firing Lewandowski for nearly yanking the Arizona protester off his feet. He is quite clearly bullying the kid.

Of course, this is only happening because Trump has created a ludicrously hostile environment. It is Trump who bears the real responsibility, Trump who should apologize for not only letting things get out of hand but egging it on.

This would be a very good time for Trump to take a moment or four and get his head straight. Between his mishandling of the Fields incident and his even more stunning statements on the long war and abortion -- he said that our soldiers are hamstrung and unable to fight because of "the Geneva Conventions" and advocated that women be punished for having abortions -- he might just be on the verge of self-destruction even as he gets ever closer to the Republican presidential nomination.

Wouldn't that be ironic?

Facebook comments are closed on this article.